Friday, February 15, 2008

Happy Friggin Valentine's Day

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Valentine's Day. That time of the year to celebrate with the loved one. So I go pick up a gift, we head out to a movie, then we come back home in time to watch this crap. I'll put up more tomorrow but for now, I'm going to bed and will hopefully forget about this game.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Avalanche Defeat Blues in 9-5 Goal Extravaganza

Hejduk and Stastny celebrate Hejduk's hat trick against the Blues
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
That was an insane game! With a 6-2 lead heading into the third, the Avalanche came away with a 9-5 win. There were 2 goals scored in the 1st and 6 goals scored in both the 2nd and 3 periods in what was the highest scoring game in the NHL this season.

I had a brief heart attack when the Blues made it 6-4 inside the first two minutes of the third period. Thankfully Q called a timeout and told the team to relax and keep playing their game which they did. Hey, maybe they started listening to the coach.

Since there was so much action in this game, my description of the game could either be brief to keep from rambling...or end up being the longest post I've ever written. Let's find out!

First Period
The Avs got the first powerplay of the game as Ryan Johnson, one of the 3 Johnson's the Blues have, took a hooking penalty. The Avs were moving the puck around much better and utilizing the point well. Kyle Cumiskey broke up the best chance of the game as he rushed back to stop a streaking Mayers who broke out after Smyth whiffed on the puck at the blueline.

Jay McClement got the Blues on the board first as Stempniak beat Tyler Arnason around the net and fired McClement a great cross crease pass. Theodore nearly had it but really had no chance on that one.

Ryan Smyth then put on a performance that made me exclaim "That's why the Avs signed you!" He forechecked hard, got the body on Backman and then fired a pass to Hejduk. Hejduk took a millisecond to corral it and fired it past Toivonen. Just a classic example of how to forecheck and get the puck away from your man.

Ben Guite got crunched shortly after by Backes. He got right back up, got back into the play, knocked Erik Johnson off the puck, took a crosscheck for his efforts, then helped ensure the puck got out of the zone. I loved it.

The period ends with the Blues on the PP.

Second Period
And the Avs finish killing off the penalty and started applying some pressure. Hejduk had a great chance to get his second of the game but couldn't get a hold of a feed from Smyth.

Ryan Johnson then took his second hooking penalty of the game and the Avs made him pay this time. Brett Clark took a shot from the top of the circle and Hejduk banged home the rebound. So I guess he made up for missing the Smyth feed earlier.

Just 42 seconds later Jay McClement busted out on a breakaway and I wasn't too worried. Skrastins hooked him from behind though and even though McClement got a shot off, the ref awarded him a penalty shot. So in goes McClement on Theodore who has been stellar in 1-on-1 confrontations. Unfortunately this time he was beaten on a beauty shot by McClement to tie the game.

Although I agree with Haynes that I like the call, I didn't realize that was a change made this year. Typically the rule for awarding a penalty shot was predicated on whether the player got a shot off or not.

But not to fear. A few minutes later Jaroslav Hlinka found himself with all kinds of time low on the side boards. He waited, waited, waited...then fired a rocket pass across the crease to Stastny who tipped it home. All the goals so far have been of the "No chance" variety.

Barely a minute and a half later, Wojtek Wolski starts putting the rout on as he bangs home a goal off of Brunette's hard work down low. Drive the net and you get rewarded!

On the bench after, Budaj was seen talking to Wolski and whatever he said caused Wolski to titter like a schoolgirl. Which in turn made me titter like a schoolgirl.

3 minutes later, Brett Clark trailed in behind a 2-on-1 with Stastny and Hejduk and again, driving to the net paid off. Stastny waited too long to pass to Hejduk but the puck bounced out in front and Clark was there to take advantage of it.

And if that wasn't enough, Smyth decided to again remind us why he was signed as he scored on a wraparound goal which was probably the weakest goal of the game but definitely not a bad goal. That gave Colorado the most 2nd period goals of any team in the NHL.

Third Period
The third period starts with a goaltender change. Oddly reminiscent of the Columbus game I thought. Toivonen played fine but 6 goals against would be enough to make me not want to play anymore too.

And holy crap, just 24 seconds in Doug Weight puts a rebound past Theodore. I never had a good angle on this one to see how the rebound came to be but I'll give Theodore the benefit of the doubt on it.

And exactly a minute after that David Perron circled the net and fired a shot past Theodore to make it a 2-goal game. And cause Avalanche fans everywhere to reach for the Maalox. It looked like that puck may have been redirected slightly but it was hard to tell for sure.

Quenneville wisely took a timeout to settle and gather the troops together. While this was happening, Hannu Toivonen was getting back into goal for the Blues. Which either means he had equipment troubles earlier - maybe he pulled a Luongo? - or Murray really likes to screw with his goaltenders. Sure, the Blues were back in in now but is Schwarz incapable of playing at the NHL level at this point or what?

The timeout did its job as the Avalanche settled down and kept playing their game. Stastny took a hit from behind to give the Avs their fourth powerplay. Wolski was not in the point for this one as Liles and Clark were out there. Shocking!

Ryan Smyth then displayed some excellent patience behind the net. And also displayed that the Blues D needs to help their goaltenders out. He had a year and a day to feed Paul Stastny who put it past Toivonen and Avalanche fans everywhere breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The Avs then got another powerplay chance on a hit from behind and again they made the Blues pay. Milan Hejduk netted the fifth hat trick of his career and chased Toivonen from the net once again.

A couple minutes later the Avalanche were on the PP again and got their third PPG of the game. T.J. Hensick fed Bruentte who then tipped it over to Wolski who buried it past Schwarz for a 9-4 lead.

The Blues got one final goal on the powerplay as Perron fed Stempniak a great cross ice pass and he buried it to bring the goal total to 14. I hope nobody took the Under on this game!

- Jose Theodore was in net for his second straight start
- Sakic and Laperriere were out with injury
- when Sakic is back, I want to see Arnason sit out some games
- St. Louis has (had?) the #1 PK in the league
- I again found myself yelling "SHOOT!" to Clark at a couple points in the game
- the #1 and #4 lines for the Avs were on fire again tonight and should not be broken up for anything
- Hannan is really jumping into the rush the last few games
- Hejduk had his 300th career assist and his 100 and 101st power play goals
- the Avalanche were only penalized 3 times as the continue to play disciplined hockey
- Stastny leaps into 6th place in scoring on his 2nd career 5-point night
- Richardson and Guite are a great PK combo

It was a balanced night in terms of ice-time. Liles (!?) led the way with 22:57 and Hannan was just behind with 22:18. Marek Svatos had the least time with just 9:56. The 4th line of McCormick, Guite and Richardson averaged 13 minutes. Not bad for an energy line.

Hejduk led the way in the points category with 6 (3g/3a), Stastny had 5 (2g/3a) and Smyth had 3 (1g/2a). Now that's some point production from the first line if I ever saw it. Wolski had a 2-goal game, Clark had a goal and assist, Liles had 2 assists as did Brunette and Hannan and Hlinka and Hensick each had one helper.

This was Brunette's 400th consecutive game which is 3rd in the league at the moment. Cory Sarish and Brendan Morrison lead the way. I can't recall their numbers but I want to say 481 for Sarich and 527 for Morrison. But maybe that's my old high school locker combinations.

And the ultimate stat on tonight...this was the franchise's 1,000th victory.

Related Links Event Summary Recap Recap
In the Cheap Seats Game Notes

Friday, October 12, 2007

Avalanche Singing the Blues: Lose 4-1

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Well, it was a tough start as I figured it would be. The Avalanche weathered the storm and came away with a 1-1 tie. The 2nd period was uneventful but the game broke wide open in the 3rd. A two-goal outburst by Dan Hinote sealed the fate of the Avalanche as they were never able to solve Manny Legace except for one flukey goal.

First Period
Yikes. Tough start to this period as Brad Boyes scored a goal 1:14 into the period. Paul Kariya burned in to the zone around Brett Clark (I believe it was #5), Theodore made a close-in save off Kariya, then another off the trailer. However, Brad Boyes was coming in unimpeded and Theodore was well out of position at this point so it was a tap-in for him.

So first game in, first scoring rush, first goal against for Jose Theodore. It's an easy one to hang on Theodore's head immediately. However the Blues announcers were right...this one can be mostly be hung at the feet of Joe Sakic. He dogged the backcheck and Boyes made him pay big time. I don't like saying it but I call it as I see it - and as the Blues announcers see it I suppose as that's what their assessment was as well. listed it as a shorthanded goal. It was not. Keep up the good work guys. Next time test your new system out a bit better before rolling it out.

However, Paul Stastny had an answer less than 3 minutes later. With Ryan Smyth in front of the net, Stastny sent a pass cross-crease which ended up deflecting in off of Paul Kariya's skate. What can you say about Stastny. When you're hot, you're hot! That's 5 goals and 9 points in the first 4 games. Be still my beating heart.

After the quick opening, the game tapered off a bit. There were only 5 shots on goal per team with about 6 or 7 minutes to go. The teams picked it up back up a bit towards the end but Theodore and Legace were both up to the test.

The period ended 1-1 with 9 shots on goal for each team.

Second Period
The Avs opened up this period on the powerplay but weren't able to get much done. The PP was followed up with a good shift by Wojtek Wolski as he had the puck follow his stick all around the ice while getting a couple good chances on Legace.

The Blues then got a powerplay of their own off a completely bogus call. Yes, I said bogus. Dude. Hejud was breaking in towards Legace from his off wing, Kariya pushed him out and into Legace. The refs saw this as Hejduk not trying to stop from interfering with the goaltender. Even the Blues announcers - who were actually very fair - thought this was a terrible call.

Thankfully the Blues got nothing done as the PK continued to look much improved. They were looking very aggressive and didn't give the Blues time to set up. At times they got a bit too aggressive and found themselves stacking one side, but the Blues couldn't capitalize.

Jeff Finger then put Lee Stempniak flat on his keester. I have nothing more to say. I won't say it. No. It's too obvious. I will not say that he gave him the Finger! Curses, foiled again.

Manny Legace then stepped up and made two great saves. Hlinka was streaking down the left side and Andrew Brunette fed him a mind-numbingly gorgeous pass from across the ice. However Legace got over quickly and made an excellent save on Hlinka. Then Joe Sakic broke in down his off wing, fired a shot which Legace got enough of to direct wide. He then scrambled back into position to cover up a rebound chance by Jaroslav Hlinka.

Paul Stastny then drew a penalty on Ryan Johnson. Johnson rubbed out Stastny, Stastny grabbed Johnson, down they went, into the penalty box Johnson went, out of my mouth came a chuckle. The Blues announcers actually thought it was legit but I saw Stastny taking down Johnson, not the other way around.

However, the refs noticed their mistake on the replay because they then called Milan Hejduk on another ridiculous penalty. Hejduk came flying back to stop Hinote from getting a shorthanded opportunity, rubbed him out, and the refs called him for interference. And they say "even up calls" don't exist. Right.

The period ended 1-1 with the Avs getting off 10 shots to the Blues 3.

Third Period
Oh my. Worst. Period. Ever. It was opened with a good save by Theodore on a breakaway but it quickly turned sour. McClement scored at 4:57 off a scramble in front followed barely a minute later by Hinote on another scramble in front.

The Avalanche put some pressure on the Blues but couldn't get past Legace. Hinote then put the icing on the cake with just 4 minutes left.

It was a less than stellar defensive effort as the D again looked confused and unsure of themselves. They also got pushed around in their own crease - which led to the third goal - and just aren't battling it out hard enough.

The offense came up flat as well though there were many opportunities. Most of the opportunities came from the newly coined RPM line (Ryan-Paul-Milan) and Milan Hejduk was the most dangerous of the night for sure.

The top line of Hlinka-Sakic-Brunette didn't generate many chances though when it did, it was typically Hlinka and Sakic together on a rush. Poor Andrew just can't keep up to the young 'uns. Hey, Joe is young at heart.

The faceoff percentage was 42%. Not horrible but still needing improvement. Guite started the night off terrible in the circle but ended at close to 50%. Arnason still doesn't seem to give a rats behind whether he wins faceoffs or not.

Clark had the most ice time with 23:07. He made some pretty weak plays, one which led to a goal when he got shoved out of the crease by Hinote who then buried it. You've got to be stronger in your crease. He ended the night at -3.

Svatos again saw limited ice time and he wasn't really buzzing as much as he was the first few games.

I've got nothing too particular to say about Theodore. He was neither exceptional nor terrible.

- Leopold out, Skrastins and Finger in
- Wolski is finishing his checks and fighting hard
- D is still out of sync with each other
- Liles is playing well positionally
- Smyth doesn't seem to be competing like the Smyth I remember (or hoped for)
- PK was looking much better

The Good
- Hejduk looked sharp
- the 2nd line was still looking good
- at least they got one goal

The Bad
- going into the 3rd 1-1 and leaving with a 4-1 loss
- Dan Hinote giving it to his former team
- Legace continuing his Avalanche-killer ways
- poor defensive effort
- lack of intensity

The Ugly
- Jackman hitting the boards hard in the 1st period

Related Links Scoresheet
TSN Recap
Denver Post Recap
In The Cheap Seats Recap

Game Preview: Avalanche vs Blues - Oct 12

Jose Theodore
(Photo Courtesy
Whew! That was a long break from Avalanche action. Thankfully there was plenty of action from coast to coast to keep me entertained during the dry spell.

The Avalanche now have back-to-back games to play against the St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets this weekend. They will then await the Flames on Oct 16th for the Avalanche's first divisional matchup. The Blues and Avalanche are both 2-1-0 heading into the game tonight.

This game against St. Louis will be the first real look the Avalanche get against a team who upgraded themselves this year with the additions of Kariya, Tkachuk and Mike Johnson. Mike Johnson is a player I would have liked the Avalanche to sign some, lose some.

A couple of the rookies I was anxious to see - Erik Johnson and David Perron - are not likely to be in the lineup. Erik Johnson, their top draft pick on '06, is out with a broken foot and David Perron has yet to see regular season action. Jay McKee and Eric Brewer are also out with injuries so their defensive corps is a bit depleted.

The Avalanche are coming off a big win against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday. After a big win followed by a long layoff, it's hard to gauge how the Avalanche will look against the Blues. Teams often come out flat after long layoffs so don't be surprised if the Blues storm the Avalanche for the first period. The Avalanche need to weather the initial attack and then find a way past the Avs-killer Manny Legace if they want to come away with points tonight.

The big news of the day of course is Theodore getting the nod in goal rather than Saturday against Columbus. It was expected that Theodore would get some action this weekend since the games are back-to-back with travel, but the expectation was that he would start against the Jackets - an arguably weaker team than the Blues - for his first NHL action this season.

This decision may come down to starting at home vs starting on the road. Road games have much less pressure attached to them - in my eyes anyways - and the coaching staff may have felt this scenario was the better option for Theodore's return. There's nothing worse for your confidence than being boo'd on home ice. No matter what sort of "he's a professional" argument you make, he hears them and I'm sure it gets into his head.

So I'm looking for three things tonight:
1 - Solid start from Theodore
2 - Solid PK effort
3 - Improved faceoff percentage (I'd be happy with 45% even!)

They've had plenty of time to work on #2 and #3 but #1 is still a wildcard. So it should be an exciting game!

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